BOSTON (AP) — Massachusetts is extending by two weeks tightened restrictions on gatherings, including a 25% capacity limit for many businesses.

The restrictions went into effect on Dec. 26 and will now be extended for at least two more weeks to Jan. 24, Gov. Charlie Baker announced Thursday at a Statehouse press conference.

Businesses that will continue to operate at 25% capacity include restaurants, casinos, offices, houses of worship, retail stores, driving schools, theaters and performance venues, golf courses, libraries, lodging, arcades, fitness and health clubs and museums.

Workers and staff will not count toward the occupancy count for restaurants, places of worship, close contact personal services, and retail businesses.

Baker said he understands how hard the limits are, particularly for small businesses, but they’re needed to try to stem the latest COVID-19 surge in the state. The Republican said his administration will review the progress in two weeks to see if the limits can be eased then.

“We need to stay in this game a little longer,” he said.



The number of newly confirmed coronavirus deaths in Massachusetts rose by 71 on Thursday while the number of newly confirmed cases of COVID-19 increased by more than 7,100.

The new deaths pushed the state’s confirmed COVID-19 death toll to more than 12,634 and its confirmed caseload since the start of the pandemic to more than 393,000.

The true number of cases is likely higher because studies suggest some people can be infected and not feel sick.

There were nearly 2,400 people reported hospitalized Thursday because of confirmed cases of COVID-19, with more than 455 in intensive care units.

The average age of those hospitalized was 73.

The number of probable or confirmed COVID-19 deaths reported in long-term care facilities rose to 7,523.



Boston can quickly rebuild a field hospital at the city’s convention center if needed, Mayor Marty Walsh said Thursday.

Walsh, a Democrat, said he is keeping a close eye on the rising number of COVID-19 infections and hospitalizations. While many of those getting sick are younger, the number requiring hospitalization is still climbing, he said.

In June the city released the final patients from its field hospital — dubbed Boston Hope — which had been opened earlier in the pandemic.

The state has opened two new field hospitals in Lowell and Worcester recently to deal with the new surge, and Walsh said the Boston field hospital could be reestablished quickly if needed.

“It’s taken apart but it’s there. We did it in five days. We built it in five days last time so I’d probably say we could build it in three, maybe in two because all the pieces are there,” he said. “Now it’s a puzzle and you can put it together.”

Walsh also said he’s planning to get vaccinated when it’s his turn.

“I’m not going to jump the line,” he said. “There’s a process.”



Boston Symphony Orchestra Music Director Andris Nelsons has returned to lead the orchestra for the first time in more than a year to begin recording a series of concerts that will released online next month.

They will be his first appearances with the orchestra since January 2020, before it canceled the remainder of its 2019-20 season because of the pandemic, the orchestra said in a statement Thursday.

The February concert streams are part of the aptly titled “Music in Changing Times” series. They will feature Nelsons and the orchestra in four Beethoven symphonies, Nos. 3, 5, 6, and 7, as well as recent works by Iranian-Canadian composer Iman Habibi, British composer Hannah Kendall, and American composer Carlos Simon.

Nelsons was to have conducted the Beethoven works with the orchestra in October and November in honor of the 250th anniversary of the composer's 1770 birth.

Nelson said in a video statement he was “overjoyed" to be back.

The goal of the series is to “reflect our great desire to bring beauty, inspiration and connection to the lives of all who care deeply about the BSO, particularly during this challenging period of the pandemic," he said.